The Winnipeg Jets continue to be one of the NHL’s most interesting and frustrating franchises. They’re winless in their last five, but where they’re really spreading controversy is with the handling of one Evander Kane.
Kane was a healthy scratch on Tuesday night, with Jets head coach Paul Maurice making the call as his forward thought he was going to be skating against his hometown Vancouver Canucks. To make matters worse, Kane was one of two players picked by PR staff to talk to the media after the optional morning skate on Tuesday morning. By all accounts at that point, Kane thought all was well.
Did something happen between Tuesday morning and Tuesday game time to put him further into the franchise’s doghouse?
Maurice termed the decision to scratch as a “coach’s decision,” which led to the firing of the rumour mill. “Disciplinary reasons” were given for Kane’s treatment, which is really as open-ended as one can get in terms of describing any actual behaviour.
Kane has, for right or wrong, cultivated an off-ice image that hasn’t exactly gone over well with the NHL’s typical fan base. His lack of overt, aw-shucks humility isn’t the stuff of a traditional hockey player and doing push-ups with stacks of cash on his back wasn’t exactly the best move in terms of optics.
But on the ice, Kane has been one of Winnipeg’s core players as of late despite some rather disappointing statistics. He’s a -7 over the last three games, which isn’t difficult to do on a team so on the slide.
There is precedent for this, with Kane being made a healthy scratch by Maurice last season in Toronto. There was speculation that he was out partying late and the discipline was swift and public. Maurice was, at the time, trying to lay down the law.
Whatever the case may be in this situation, it’ll be hard to quell the speculation. What’s not hard is to see that the Jets are a team distracted.
The Kane situation is once again firing trade talks, which may be one of the only answers the Jets have left. Whether Kane deserves the controversy or not is probably beside the point right now. Impressions matter in the National Hockey League and he’s not making a good one in Winnipeg. Is it time to close the book and move on? Maybe.
The Jets are currently fourth in the Central Division with a 26-18-9 record. They lost to the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night as Kane sat in the press box. They’re still playoff bound if they can remain at an even keel, but if Kane continues to distract – whether by his own will or not – that may be harder than it seems.
UPDATE: It turns out that there is a reason for the healthy scratch of Evander Kane on Tuesday night in Vancouver. Reports are emerging that he wore a track suit when arriving at the rink, which is a violation of the dress code.